The Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic determined that foreigners without official employment or permanent residence are not entitled to free medical care. The decision was reached May 24th and came about after a proposal by the City Court of Prague and the District Court of Prague 6 to change the law based on its potential for discrimination.

The issue arose after two pregnant Ukrainian women were unable to pay their medical bills. The Constitutional Court came to this decision, saying they did not see discrimination in the current compulsory medical insurance law.

“The right to protect health is really given to everyone, both citizens and foreigners who live in our territory. However, do not confuse it with the right to free health care. It relies only on participants in the compulsory health insurance system – Czech citizens, foreigners with permanent residence and officially employed foreigners,” according to the court’s verdict.

One of the Ukrainian women in question was insured, however, her newborn son was not. When her child faced a life-threatening condition, she signed a contract charging her 700,000 CZK.

The other woman had a labor contract, but was bedridden after pregnancy related complications and had to stay in the hospital on a long-term basis. Her contract expired during her pregnancy, and without a permanent residence, she was not refused medical coverage. After refusing to pay, the medical institution sued her, despite being granted permanent residence only three months later.

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While discrimination may be in question, the present healthcare law does not address certain circumstances. Paying for foreigners’ healthcare is a heavy burden, but the extent to which foreigners in need are rejected may be too harsh. While complex, in the context of women and children, it is an ethical issue as well as economic.